CHAPTER III – MAINTENANCE

18. Maintenance of wife.

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be entitled to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime.

(2) A Hindu wife shall be entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance,-
(a) if he is guilty of desertion, that is to say, of abandoning her without reasonable cause and without her consent or against her wish, or of wilfully neglecting her;

(b) if he has treated her with such cruelty as to cause a reasonable apprehension in her mind that it will be harmful or injurious to live with her husband;

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(c) if he is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy;

(d) if he has any other wife living;

(e) if he keeps a concubine in the same house in which his wife is living or habitually resides with a concubine elsewhere;

(f) if he has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion;

(g) if there is any other cause justifying her living separately.

(3) A Hindu wife shall not be entitled to separate residence and maintenance from her husband if she is unchaste or ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion.

COMMENTS:

Interim maintenance

The right to claim interim maintenance in a suit is a substantive right under section 18 of the Act. Since no form is prescribed to enforce the said right civil court in exercise of its inherent power can grant interim maintenance;
Purusottam  Mahakud v. Smt Annapurna Mahakud, AIR 1997 Ori 73 

Maintenance pendente lite

After considering the status of the husband the wife should be awarded maintenance pendente lite, even though there is no separate provision in the Act for grant of maintenance pendente lite. The obligation to maintain the wife remains on the husband even though the wife might be living separately.
The suit under section 18 of the Act may take decades to decide, the wife in the first instance be forced to face starvation and then subsequently is granted maintenance from the date of filing of suit. Such a view will be against the very intent and spirit of section 18 of the Act. It is settled law that a court empowered to grant a substantive relief is competent to award it on interim basis as well even though there is no express provision in the statute to grant it;
Neelam Malhotra v. Rajinder Malhotra, AIR 1994

Maintenance to wife/widow

Widow has no charge on separate property of husband. Neither section 18 relating to maintenance of wife nor section 21 dealing with widow provides for any charge for maintenance on separate property of husband;
Sadhu Singh v. Gurdwara Sahib Narike, AIR 2006

Separate residence and maintenance

(i) The wife had been living alone and all the children had been brought up by her without any assistance and help from the husband and there was a clear case of desertion, the wife was entitled to separate residence and maintenance;
Meera Nireshwalia v. Sukumar Nireshwalia, AIR 1994

(ii) The thoughtless action of the husband of evicting the wife from the house where she had been living in collusion with the purchasers of the house and the police inflicted a deep wound on her amounting to cruelty, the wife was entitled to live separately and claim maintenance;
Meera Nireshwalia v. Sukumar Nireshwalia, AIR 1994

(iii) The claim for maintenance by a wife can also be sustained under clause (g) even on a ground covered by one or other clauses i.e clause (a) to (f) of section 18(2) substantially but not fully. Merely because the wife fails to strictly prove the specific grounds urged by her, she cannot be denied relief;
Meera Nireshwalia v. Sukumar Nireshwalia, AIR 1994

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